Did Ukraine Try To Smuggle S-300 Missile Parts Amid Flaring Russia-Ukraine Tensions?

Amid Russia-Ukraine tensions, a Russian court has handed an alleged Ukrainian spy a 10-year prison sentence for his attempt to smuggle spare parts of the S-300 air defense system.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) issued a press statement, which mentioned that a man named A.V. Marchenko was a Ukrainian intelligence agent who received a handsome amount of money to steal S-300 spare parts.

“By the ruling of the Third Appeals Court of General Jurisdiction, the verdict against Ukrainian citizen A.V. Marchenko passed by the Krasnodar Regional Court for committing a crime stipulated by Article 276 of Russia’s Criminal Code (‘Espionage’) has been upheld and has entered into legal force. By the court’s judgment, he has been sentenced to 10 years in a strict security prison,” the FSB said in a statement.

Marchenko was allegedly assigned the task by a Ukrainian Foreign Intelligence Service staffer Pyotr Khomenko in May 2018 to acquire klystrons — an important piece of equipment used in radars by amplification of the high-frequency signals. He allegedly received $163,000 “for implementing the criminal intent, the Russian news agency TASS reported.

“The secret items were expected to be transferred to the Ukrainian Ukroboronservis state arms exporter through an intermediary firm in Macedonia,” the FSB press office said.

The Russian court also ruled that the amount paid to Marchenko would be seized and would be deemed Russian government property.

Russia, which has been at loggerheads with Ukraine, last week announced the withdrawal of its troops from their shared border even as military threats against Kyiv remain.

The S-300 Air Defense System

The S-300 is a series of initially Soviet and later Russian long-range surface-to-air missile systems produced by NPO Almaz. Ukraine operates S-300PS, S-300PMU, S-300V, and other variants, inherited from the Soviet Union.

Like its grounded air force which didn’t see much operational capability due to maintenance costs, and only six systems have been repaired since 2004, as a result of which only 40% of Ukrainian S-300 systems were in good condition prior to the 2014 Russian invasion.

The S-300 has been exported to more than 15 countries worldwide and has been involved in many battlefields around the world including Syria, and especially during the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.